Wear your life jacket, get busted by DNR

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Lila Alcott sports her life jacket at the Water Festival Fishing Tournament

Summer is here and it’s time to get out on the water with family and friends, but safety is always the number one priority. S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Law Enforcement is reminding the public of the lifesaving value of wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) or what is commonly referred to as a life jacket.

Officers, during courtesy boat inspections on the state’s waterways and landings, will give out T-shirts stating “I got caught wearing my life jacket” along with a coupon for a free Frosty from Wendy’s to select young adults and children who are “caught” wearing a life jacket.

Boating accidents can and often do occur at terrifying speeds. Finding your PFD and attempting to put it on after the accident is almost impossible. Life jackets are of little use if you are not wearing them and save lives only if they are worn. PFDs need to be readily accessible and are not classified as such if stowed in compartments or under equipment.

The boat operator is responsible for having a proper-fitting U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for all passengers on board. Throwable devices, such as flotation cushions, are required in addition to wearable devices on boats 16 feet and longer. Life jackets must be serviceable without tears, holes or other damage or wear that would decrease the effectiveness of the device.

Any person younger than 12-years-old, in a boat less than 16 feet long, must wear a PFD. It is especially important to check the size and fit of life jacket for children.

Anyone on a personal watercraft, which includes Jet Skis, Sea-Doos, WaveRunners and others, must also wear a Coast Guard-approved flotation device.

Find out more about PFDs at the DNR website: www.boat-ed.com/sc/handbook/pfds.htm. Take the online DNR boating course at www.boat-ed.com/southcarolina/index.html.